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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Keepers Of The King's Peace - Chapter 2. Bones Changes His Religion
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The Keepers Of The King's Peace - Chapter 2. Bones Changes His Religion Post by :marketing Category :Long Stories Author :Edgar Wallace Date :May 2012 Read :2728

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The Keepers Of The King's Peace - Chapter 2. Bones Changes His Religion


Captain Hamilton of the King's Houssas had two responsibilities in life, a sister and a subaltern.

The sister's name was Patricia Agatha, the subaltern had been born Tibbetts, christened Augustus, and named by Hamilton in his arbitrary way, "Bones."

Whilst sister and subaltern were separated from one another by some three thousand miles of ocean--as far, in fact, as the Coast is from Bradlesham Thorpe in the County of Hampshire--Captain Hamilton bore his responsibilities without displaying a sense of the burden.

When Patricia Hamilton decided on paying a visit to her brother she did so with his heartiest approval, for he did not realize that in bringing his two responsibilities face to face he was not only laying the foundation of serious trouble, but was actually engaged in erecting the fabric.

Pat Hamilton had come and had been boisterously welcomed by her brother one white-hot morning, Houssas in undress uniform lining the beach and gazing solemnly upon Militini's riotous joy. Mr. Commissioner Sanders, C.M.G., had given her a more formal welcome, for he was a little scared of women. Bones, as we know, had not been present--which was unfortunate in more ways than one.

It made matters no easier for the wretched Bones that Miss Hamilton was an exceedingly lovely lady. Men who live for a long time in native lands and see little save beautiful figures displayed without art and with very little adornment, are apt to regard any white woman with regular features as pretty, when the vision comes to them after a long interval spent amidst native people. But it needed neither contrast nor comparison to induce an admiration for Captain Hamilton's sister.

She was of a certain Celtic type, above the medium height, with the freedom of carriage and gait which is the peculiar possession of her country-women. Her face was a true oval, and her complexion of that kind which tans readily but does not freckle.

Eyes and mouth were firm and steadfast; she was made for ready laughter, yet she was deep enough, and in eyes and mouth alike you read a tenderness beyond disguise. She had a trinity of admirers: her brother's admiration was natural and critical; Sanders admired and feared; Lieutenant Tibbetts admired and resented.

From the moment when Bones strode off after the painful discovery, had slammed the door of his hut and had steadfastly declined all manner of food and sustenance, he had voluntarily cut himself off from his kind.

He met Hamilton on parade the following morning, hollow-eyed (as he hoped) after a sleepless night, and there was nothing in his attitude suggestive of the deepest respect and the profoundest regard for that paragraph of King's Regulations which imposes upon the junior officer a becoming attitude of humility in the presence of his superior officer.

"How is your head, Bones?" asked Hamilton, after the parade had been dismissed.

"Thank you, sir," said Bones bitterly--though why he should be bitter at the kindly inquiry only he knew--"thank you, sir, it is about the same. My temperature is--or was--up to one hundred and four, and I have been delirious. I wouldn't like to say, dear old--sir, that I'm not nearly delirious now."

"Come up to tiffin," invited Hamilton.

Bones saluted--a sure preliminary to a dramatic oration.

"Sir," he said firmly, "you've always been a jolly old officer to me before this contretemps wrecked my young life--but I shall never be quite the same man again, sir."

"Don't be an ass," begged Hamilton.

"Revile me, sir," said Bones dismally; "give me a dangerous mission, one of those jolly old adventures where a feller takes his life in one hand, his revolver in the other, but don't ask me----"

"My sister wants to see you," said Hamilton, cutting short the flow of eloquence.

"Ha, ha!" laughed Bones hollowly, and strode into his hut.

"And what I'm going to do with him, Heaven knows," groaned Hamilton at tiffin. "The fact is, Pat, your arrival on the scene has thoroughly demoralized him."

The girl folded her serviette and walked to the window, and stood looking out over the yellow stretch of the deserted parade-ground.

"I'm going to call on Bones," she said suddenly.

"Poor Bones!" murmured Sanders.

"That's very rude!" She took down her solar helmet from the peg behind the door and adjusted it carefully. Then she stepped through the open door, whistling cheerfully.

"I hope you don't mind, sir," apologized Hamilton, "but we've never succeeded in stopping her habit of whistling."

Sanders laughed.

"It would be strange if she didn't whistle," he said cryptically.

Bones was lying on his back, his hands behind his head. A half-emptied tin of biscuits, no less than the remnants of a box of chocolates, indicated that anchorite as he was determined to be, his austerity did not run in the direction of starvation.

His mind was greatly occupied by a cinematograph procession of melancholy pictures. Perhaps he would go away, far, far, into the interior. Even into the territory of the great king where a man's life is worth about five cents net. And as day by day passed and no news came of him--as how could it when his habitation was marked by a cairn of stones?--she would grow anxious and unhappy. And presently messengers would come bringing her a few poor trinkets he had bequeathed to her--a wrist-watch, a broken sword, a silver cigarette-case dented with the arrow that slew him--and she would weep silently in the loneliness of her room.

And perhaps he would find strength to send a few scrawled words asking for her pardon, and the tears would well up in her beautiful grey eyes--as they were already welling in Bones's eyes at the picture he drew--and she would know--all.


Or else, maybe he would be stricken down with fever, and she would want to come and nurse him, but he would refuse.

"Tell her," he would say weakly, but oh, so bravely, "tell her ... I ask only ... her pardon."


Bones heard the second whistle. It came from the open window immediately above his head. A song bird was a rare visitor to these parts, but he was too lazy and too absorbed to look up.

Perhaps (he resumed) she would never see him again, never know the deep sense of injustice....


It was clearer and more emphatic, and he half turned his head to look----

He was on his feet in a second, his hand raised to his damp forehead, for leaning on the window sill, her lips pursed for yet another whistle, was the lady of his thoughts.

She met his eyes sternly.

"Come outside--misery!" she said, and Bones gasped and obeyed.

"What do you mean," she demanded, "by sulking in your wretched little hut when you ought to be crawling about on your hands and knees begging my pardon?"

Bones said nothing.

"Bones," said this outrageous girl, shaking her head reprovingly, "you want a jolly good slapping!"

Bones extended his bony wrist.

"Slap!" he said defiantly.

He had hardly issued the challenge when a very firm young palm, driven by an arm toughened by a long acquaintance with the royal and ancient game, came "Smack!" and Bones winced.

"Play the game, dear old Miss Hamilton," he said, rubbing his wrist.

"Play the game yourself, dear old Bones," she mimicked him. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself----"

"Let bygones be bygones, jolly old Miss Hamilton," begged Bones magnanimously. "And now that I see you're a sport, put it there, if it weighs a ton."

And he held out his nobbly hand and caught the girl's in a grip that made her grimace.

Five minutes later he was walking her round the married quarters of his Houssas, telling her the story of his earliest love affair. She was an excellent listener, and seldom interrupted him save to ask if there was any insanity in his family, or whether the girl was short-sighted; in fact, as Bones afterwards said, it might have been Hamilton himself.

"What on earth are they finding to talk about?" wondered Sanders, watching the confidences from the depths of a big cane chair on the verandah.

"Bones," replied Hamilton lazily, "is telling her the story of his life and how he saved the territories from rebellion. He's also begging her not to breathe a word of this to me for fear of hurting my feelings."

At that precise moment Bones was winding up a most immodest recital of his accomplishments with a less immodest footnote.

"Of course, dear old Miss Hamilton," he was saying, lowering his voice, "I shouldn't like a word of this to come to your jolly old brother's ears. He's an awfully good sort, but naturally in competition with an agile mind like mine, understanding the native as I do, he hasn't an earthly----"

"Why don't you write the story of your adventures?" she asked innocently. "It would sell like hot cakes."

Bones choked with gratification.

"Precisely my idea--oh, what a mind you've got! What a pity it doesn't run in the family! I'll tell you a precious secret--not a word to anybody--honest?"

"Honest," she affirmed.

Bones looked round.

"It's practically ready for the publisher," he whispered, and stepped back to observe the effect of his words.

She shook her head in admiration, her eyes were dancing with delight, and Bones realized that here at last he had met a kindred soul.

"It must be awfully interesting to write books," she sighed. "I've tried--but I can never invent anything."

"Of course, in my case----" corrected Bones.

"I suppose you just sit down with a pen in your hand and imagine all sorts of things," she mused, directing her feet to the Residency.

"This is the story of my life," explained Bones earnestly. "Not fiction ... but all sorts of adventures that actually happened."

"To whom?" she asked.

"To me," claimed Bones, louder than was necessary.

"Oh!" she said.

"Don't start 'Oh-ing,'" said Bones in a huff. "If you and I are going to be good friends, dear old Miss Hamilton, don't say 'Oh!'"

"Don't be a bully, Bones." She turned on him so fiercely that he shrank back.

"Play the game," he said feebly; "play the game, dear old sister!"

She led him captive to the stoep and deposited him in the easiest chair she could find.

From that day he ceased to be anything but a slave, except on one point.

The question of missions came up at tiffin, and Miss Hamilton revealed the fact that she favoured the High Church and held definite views on the clergy.

Bones confessed that he was a Wesleyan.

"Do you mean to tell me that you're a Nonconformist?" she asked incredulously.

"That's my dinky little religion, dear old Miss Hamilton," said Bones. "I'd have gone into the Church only I hadn't enough--enough----"

"Brains?" suggested Hamilton.

"Call is the word," said Bones. "I wasn't called--or if I was I was out--haw-haw! That's a rippin' little bit of persiflage, Miss Hamilton?"

"Be serious, Bones," said the girl; "you mustn't joke about things."

She put him through a cross-examination to discover the extent of his convictions. In self-defence Bones, with only the haziest idea of the doctrine he defended, summarily dismissed certain of Miss Hamilton's most precious beliefs.

"But, Bones," she persisted, "if I asked you to change----"

Bones shook his head.

"Dear old friend," he said solemnly, "there are two things I'll never do--alter the faith of my distant but happy youth, or listen to one disparagin' word about the jolliest old sister that ever----"

"That will do, Bones," she said, with dignity. "I can see that you don't like me as I thought you did--what do you think, Mr. Sanders?"

Sanders smiled.

"I can hardly judge--you see," he added apologetically, "I'm a Wesleyan too."

"Oh!" said Patricia, and fled in confusion.

Bones rose in silence, crossed to his chief and held out his hand.

"Brother," he said brokenly.

"What the devil are you doing?" snarled Sanders.

"Spoken like a true Christian, dear old Excellency and sir," murmured Bones. "We'll bring her back to the fold."

He stepped nimbly to the door, and the serviette ring that Sanders threw with unerring aim caught his angular shoulder as he vanished.

That same night Sanders had joyful news to impart. He came into the Residency to find Bones engaged in mastering the art of embroidery under the girl's tuition.

Sanders interrupted what promised to be a most artistic execution.

"Who says a joy-ride to the upper waters of the Isisi?"

Hamilton jumped up.

"Joy-ride?" he said, puzzled.

Sanders nodded.

"We leave to-morrow for the Lesser Isisi to settle a religious palaver--Bucongo of the Lesser Isisi is getting a little too enthusiastic a Christian, and Ahmet has been sending some queer reports. I've been putting off the palaver for weeks, but Administration says it has no objection to my making a picnic of duty--so we'll all go."

"Tri-umph!" said Hamilton. "Bones, leave your needlework and go overhaul the stores."

Bones, kneeling on a chair, his elbows on the table, looked up.

"As jolly old Francis Drake said when the Spanish Armada----"

"To the stores, you insubordinate beggar!" commanded Hamilton, and Bones made a hurried exit.

The accommodation of the _Zaire was limited, but there was the launch, a light-draught boat which was seldom used except for tributary work.

"I could put Bones in charge of the _Wiggle_," he said, "but he'd be pretty sure to smash her up. Miss Hamilton will have my cabin, and you and I could take the two smaller cabins."

Bones, to whom it was put, leapt at the suggestion, brushing aside all objections. They were answered before they were framed.

As for the girl, she was beside herself with joy.

"Will there be any fighting?" she asked breathlessly. "Shall we be attacked?"

Sanders shook his head smilingly.

"All you have to do," said Bones confidently, "is to stick to me. Put your faith in old Bones. When you see the battle swayin' an' it isn't certain which way it's goin', look for my jolly old banner wavin' above the stricken field."

"And be sure it _is his banner," interrupted Hamilton, "and not his large feet. Now the last time we had a fight...."

And he proceeded to publish and utter a scandalous libel, Bones protesting incoherently the while.

The expedition was on the point of starting when Hamilton took his junior aside.

"Bones," he said, not unkindly, "I know you're a whale of a navigator, and all that sort of thing, and my sister, who has an awfully keen sense of humour, would dearly love to see you at the helm of the _Wiggle_, but as the Commissioner wants to make a holiday, I think it would be best if you left the steering to one of the boys."

Bones drew himself up stiffly.

"Dear old officer," he said aggrieved, "I cannot think that you wish to speak disparagingly of my intelligence----"

"Get that silly idea out of your head," said Hamilton. "That is just what I'm trying to do."

"I'm under your jolly old orders, sir," Bones said with the air of an early Christian martyr, "and according to Paragraph 156 of King's Regulations----"

"Don't let us go into that," said Hamilton. "I'm not giving you any commands, I'm merely making a sensible suggestion. Of course, if you want to make an ass of yourself----"

"I have never had the slightest inclination that way, cheery old sir," said Bones, "and I'm not likely at my time of life to be influenced by my surroundings."

He saluted again and made his way to the barracks. Bones had a difficulty in packing his stores. In truth they had all been packed before he reached the _Wiggle_, and to an unprofessional eye they were packed very well indeed, but Bones had them turned out and packed _his way. When that was done, and it was obvious to the meanest intelligence that the _Wiggle was in terrible danger of capsizing before she started, the stores were unshipped and rearranged under the directions of the fuming Hamilton.

When the third packing was completed, the general effect bore a striking resemblance to the position of the stores as Bones had found them when he came to the boat. When everybody was ready to start, Bones remembered that he had forgotten his log-book, and there was another wait.

"Have you got everything now?" asked Sanders wearily, leaning over the rail.

"Everything, sir," said Bones, with a salute to his superior, and a smile to the girl.

"Have you got your hot-water bottle and your hair-curlers?" demanded Hamilton offensively.

Bones favoured him with a dignified stare, made a signal to the engineer, and the _Wiggle started forward, as was her wont, with a jerk which put upon Bones the alternative of making a most undignified sprawl or clutching a very hot smoke-stack. He chose the latter, recovered his balance with an easy grace, punctiliously saluted the tiny flag of the _Zaire as he whizzed past her, and under the very eyes of Hamilton, with all the calmness in the world, took the wheel from the steersman's hand and ran the _Wiggle ashore.

All this he did in the brief space of three minutes.

"And," said Hamilton, exasperated to a degree, "if you'd only broken your infernal head, the accident would have been worth it."

It took half an hour for the _Wiggle to get afloat again. She had run up the beach, and it was necessary to unload the stores, carry them back to the quay and reload her again.

"_Now are you ready?" said Sanders.

"Ay, ay, sir," said Bones, abased but nautical.

* * * * *

Bucongo, the chief of the Lesser Isisi folk, had a dispute with his brother-in-law touching a certain matter which affected his honour. It affected his life eventually, since his relative was found one morning dead of a spear-thrust. This Sanders discovered after the big trial which followed certain events described hereafter.

The brother-in-law in his malice had sworn that Bucongo held communion with devils. It is a fact that Bucongo had, at an early age, been captured by Catholic missionaries, and had spent an uncomfortable youth mastering certain mysterious rites and ceremonies. His brother-in-law had been in the blessed service of another missionary who taught that God lived in the river, and that to fully benefit by his ju-ju it was necessary to be immersed in the flowing stream.

Between the water-God men and the cross-God men there was ever a feud, each speaking disparagingly of the other, though converts to each creed had this in common, that neither understood completely the faith into which they were newly admitted. The advantage lay with the Catholic converts because they were given a pewter medal with hearts and sunlike radiations engraved thereon (this medal was admittedly a cure for toothache and pains in the stomach), whilst the Protestants had little beyond a mysterious something that they referred to as A'lamo--which means Grace.

But when taunted by their medal-flaunting rivals and challenged to produce this "Grace," they were crestfallen and ashamed, being obliged to admit that A'lamo was an invisible magic which (they stoutly affirmed) was nevertheless an excellent magic, since it preserved one from drowning and cured warts and boils.

Bucongo, the most vigorous partisan of the cross-God men, and an innovator of ritual, found amusement in watching the Baptist missionaries standing knee-deep in the river washing the souls of the converts.

He had even been insolent to young Ferguson, the earnest leader of the American Baptist Mission, and to his intense amazement had been suddenly floored with a left-hander delivered by the sometime Harvard middle weight.

He carried his grievance and a lump on his jaw to Mr. Commissioner Sanders, who had arrived at the junction of the Isisi and the N'gomi rivers and was holding his palaver, and Sanders had been unsympathetic.

"Go worship your God in peace," said Sanders, "and let all other men worship theirs; and say no evil word to white men for these are very quick to anger. Also it is unbecoming that a black man should speak scornfully to his masters."

"Lord," said Bucongo, "in heaven all men are as one, black or white."

"In heaven," said Sanders, "we will settle that palaver, but here on the river we hold our places by our merits. To-morrow I come to your village to inquire into certain practices of which the God-men know nothing--this palaver is finished."

Now Bucongo was something more than a convert. He was a man of singular intelligence and of surprising originality. He had been a lay missioner of the Church, and had made many converts to a curious religion, the ritual of which was only half revealed to the good Jesuit fathers when at a great palaver which Bucongo summoned to exhibit his converts, the Church service was interspersed with the sacrifice of a goat and a weird procession and dance which left the representative of The Order speechless. Bucongo was called before a conference of the Mission and reprimanded.

He offered excuses, but there was sufficient evidence to prove that this enthusiastic Christian had gone systematically to work, to found what amounted to a religion of his own.

The position was a little delicate, and any other Order than the Jesuits might have hesitated to tackle a reform which meant losing a very large membership.

The fate of Bucongo's congregation had been decided when, in his anger, he took canoe, and travelling for half a day, came to the principal Mission.

Father Carpentier, full-bearded, red of face and brawny of arm, listened in the shade of his hut, pulling thoughtfully at a long pipe.

"And so, Pentini," concluded Bucongo, "even Sandi puts shame upon me because I am a cross-God man, and he by all accounts is of the water-God ju-ju."

The father eyed this perturbed sheep of his flock thoughtfully.

"O Bucongo," he said gently, "in the river lands are many beasts. Those which fly and which swim; those that run swiftly and that hide in the earth. Now who of these is right?"

"Lord, they are all right but are of different ways," said Bucongo.

Father Carpentier nodded.

"Also in the forest are two ants--one who lives in tree nests, and one who has a home deep in the ground. They are of a kind, and have the same business. Yet God put it into the little heads of one to climb trees, and of the other to burrow deeply. Both are right and neither are wrong, save when the tree ant meets the ground ant and fights him. Then both are wrong."

The squatting Bucongo rose sullenly.

"Master," he said, "these mysteries are too much for a poor man. I think I know a better ju-ju, and to him I go."

"You have no long journey, Chief," said the father sternly, "for they tell me stories of ghost dances in the forest and a certain Bucongo who is the leader of these--and of a human sacrifice. Also of converts who are branded with a cross of hot iron."

The chief looked at his sometime tutor with face twisted and puckered with rage, and turning without a word, walked back to his canoe.

The next morning Father Carpentier sent a messenger to Sanders bearing an urgent letter, and Sanders read the closely written lines with a troubled frown.

He put down the letter and came out on to the deck, to find Hamilton fishing over the side of the steamer. Hamilton looked round.

"Anything wrong?" he asked quickly.

"Bucongo of the Lesser Isisi is wrong," said Sanders. "I have heard of his religious meetings and have been a little worried--there will be a big ju-ju palaver or I'm very much mistaken. Where is Bones?"

"He has taken my sister up the creek--Bones says there are any number of egrets' nests there, and I believe he is right."

Sanders frowned again.

"Send a canoe to fetch him back," he said. "That is Bucongo's territory, and I don't trust the devil."

"Which one--Bones or Bucongo?" asked Hamilton innocently.

But Sanders was not feeling humorous.

* * * * *

At that precise moment Bones was sitting before the most fantastic religious assembly that ecclesiastic or layman had ever attended.

Fate and Bones had led the girl through a very pleasant forest glade--they left the light-draught _Wiggle half a mile down stream owing to the shoals which barred their progress, and had come upon Bucongo in an exalted moment.

With the assurance that he was doing no more than intrude upon one of those meetings which the missionizing Chief of the Lesser Isisi so frequently held, Bones stood on the outer fringe of the circle which sat in silence to watch an unwilling novitiate getting acquainted with Bucongo's god.

The novice was a girl, and she lay before an altar of stones surmounted by a misshapen _beti who glared with his one eye upon the devout gathering. The novice lay rigid, for the excellent reason that she was roped foot and hands to two pegs in the ground.

Before the altar itself was a fire of wood in which two irons were heating.

Bones did not take this in for a moment, for he was gazing open-mouthed at Bucongo. On his head was an indubitable mitre, but around the mitre was bound a strip of skin from which was suspended a circle of dangling monkey tails. For cope he wore a leopard's robe. His face was streaked red with camwood, and around his eyes he had painted two white circles.

He was in the midst of a frenzied address when the two white visitors came upon the scene, and his hand was outstretched to take the red branding-iron when the girl at Bones's side, with a little gasp of horror, broke into the circle, and wrenching the rough iron from the attendant's hand, flung it towards the circle of spectators, which widened in consequence.

"How dare you--how dare you!" she demanded breathlessly, "you horrible-looking man!"

Bucongo glared at her but said nothing; then he turned to meet Bones.

In that second of time Bucongo had to make a great decision, and to overcome the habits of a lifetime. Training and education to the dominion of the white man half raised his hand to the salute; something that boiled and bubbled madly and set his shallow brain afire, something that was of his ancestry, wild, unreasoning, brutish, urged other action. Bones had his revolver half drawn when the knobbly end of the chief's killing-spear struck him between the eyes, and he went down on his knees.

Thus it came about, that he found himself sitting before Bucongo, his feet and hands tied with native grass, with the girl at his side in no better case.

She was very frightened, but this she did not show. She had the disadvantage of being unable to understand the light flow of offensive badinage which passed between her captor and Bones.

"O Tibbetti," said Bucongo, "you see me as a god--I have finished with all white men."

"Soon we shall finish with you, Bucongo," said Bones.

"I cannot die, Tibbetti," said the other with easy confidence, "that is the wonderful thing."

"Other men have said that," said Bones in the vernacular, "and their widows are wives again and have forgotten their widowhood."

"This is a new ju-ju, Tibbetti," said Bucongo, a strange light in his eyes. "I am the greatest of all cross-God men, and it is revealed to me that many shall follow me. Now you and the woman shall be the first of all white people to bear the mark of Bucongo the Blessed. And in the days to be you shall bare your breasts and say, 'Bucongo the Wonderful did this with his beautiful hands.'"

Bones was in a cold sweat and his mouth was dry. He scarcely dare look at the girl by his side.

"What does he say?" she asked in a low voice. Bones hesitated, and then haltingly he stammered the translation of the threat.

She nodded.

"O Bucongo," said Bones, with a sudden inspiration, "though you do evil, I will endure. But this you shall do and serve me. Brand me alone upon the chest, and upon the back. For if we be branded separately we are bound to one another, and you see how ugly this woman is with her thin nose and her pale eyes; also she has long hair like the grass which the weaver birds use for their nests."

He spoke loudly, eagerly, and it seemed convincingly, for Bucongo was in doubt. Truly the woman by all standards was very ugly. Her face was white and her lips thin. She was a narrow woman too, he thought, like one underfed.

"This you shall do for me, Bucongo," urged Bones; "for gods do not do evil things, and it would be bad to marry me to this ugly woman who has no hips and has an evil tongue."

Bucongo was undecided.

"A god may do no evil," he said; "but I do not know the ways of white men. If it be true, then I will mark you twice, Tibbetti, and you shall be my man for ever; and the woman I will not touch."

"Cheer oh!" said Bones.

"What are you saying--will he let us go?" asked the girl.

"I was sayin' what a jolly row there'll be," lied Bones; "and he was sayin' that he couldn't think of hurtin' a charmin' lady like you. Shut your eyes, dear old Miss Hamilton."

She shut them quickly, half fainting with terror, for Bucongo was coming towards them, a blazing iron in his hand, a smile of simple benevolence upon his not unintelligent face.

"This shall come as a blessing to you, Tibbetti," he said almost jovially.

Bones shut his teeth and waited.

The hot iron was scorching his silk shirt when a voice hailed the high-priest of the newest of cults.

"O Bucongo," it said.

Bucongo turned with a grimace of fear and cringed backward before the levelled Colt of Mr. Commissioner Sanders.

"Tell me now," said Sanders in his even tone, "can such a man as you die? Think, Bucongo."

"Lord," said Bucongo huskily, "I think I can die."

"We shall see," said Sanders.

* * * * *

It was not until after dinner that night that the girl had recovered sufficiently to discuss her exciting morning.

"I think you were an awful brute," she addressed her unabashed brother. "You were standing in the wood listening to and seeing everything, and never came till the last minute."

"It was my fault," interrupted Sanders. "I wanted to see how far the gentle Bucongo would go."

"Dooced thoughtless," murmured Bones under his breath, but audible.

She looked at him long and earnestly then turned again to her brother.

"There is one thing I want to know," she said. "What was Bones saying when he talked to that horrible man? Do you know that Bones was scowling at me as though I was ... I hardly know how to express it. Was he saying nice things?"

Hamilton looked up at the awning, and cleared his throat.

"Play the game, dear old sir and brother-officer," croaked Bones.

"He said----" began Hamilton.

"Live an' let live," pleaded Bones, all of a twitter. "_Esprit de corps an' discretion, jolly old captain."

Hamilton looked at his subordinate steadily.

"He asked to be branded twice in order that you might not be branded once," he said quietly.

The girl stared at Bones, and her eyes were full of tears.

"Oh, Bones!" she said, with a little catch in her voice, "you ... you are a sportsman."

"Carry on," said Bones incoherently, and wept a little at the realization of that magnificent moment.

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The Keepers Of The King's Peace - Chapter 1. Bones, Sanders And Another The Keepers Of The King's Peace - Chapter 1. Bones, Sanders And Another

The Keepers Of The King's Peace - Chapter 1. Bones, Sanders And Another
CHAPTER I. BONES, SANDERS AND ANOTHERTo Isongo, which stands upon the tributary of that name, came a woman of the Isisi who had lost her husband through a providential tree falling upon him. I say "providential," for it was notorious that he was an evil man, a drinker of beer and a favourite of many bad persons. Also he made magic in the forest, and was reputedly the familiar of Bashunbi the devil brother of M'shimba-M'shamba. He beat his wives, and once had set fire to his house from sheer wickedness. So that when he was borne back to the village